For a while, people were starting to wonder if Mark Gill and Neil Sacker's finance and production company The Film Department would ever greenlight a film.
There was a long gap between the announcement of the company last June and follow-up details about any productions. But as anyone familiar with the Hollywood-based company will tell you, there is a strict emphasis on development, and staff were wading through approximately 8,000 scripts to arrive at the initial slate of 20 projects.
Now, with its first film in production, a priceless completion guarantee from the Screen Actors Guild in the eventuality of a summer strike and a new Cannes-bound international sales division headed by sales veteran Steve Bickel, the future looks bright.
'We're choosy,' says Gill, the former Warner Independent Pictures chief and Miramax executive vice-president. 'Audiences and distributors want something that's high concept with a great script and stars. That's hard to do, but we have taken our time to select a line-up we're proud of.'
The slate includes Bart Freundlich's romantic comedy The Rebound with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha, which began shooting in New York in April, as well as the Gerard Butler serial-killer thriller Law Abiding Citizen and Second World War thriller Brothers In Arms.
Also coming up is The Peak 3D, about a plane crash in the Himalayas, which Christian Alvart will direct this autumn. 'People say the 3D format works best when you're looking high up and deep inside closed spaces,' Gill says. 'Well what's better for that than an adventure set on a mountain''
Because it is backed by a $200m capitalisation, The Film Department does not need a domestic deal in place before it starts a production. The idea is to fully finance and produce six films a year in the $10m-$45m range.
'Everyone here works really hard and we turn things around very quickly,' says Sacker, former COO at Yari Film Group. 'We put together a number of smart, enthusiastic people on each project and take it very seriously, because at the end of the day that's what's going to set us apart.'
Bickel is relishing the company's first Cannes. 'There's a dearth of viable projects out there,' he says. 'The demise of New Line, as sad as that is, has opened up an avenue for us when the time could not be better. We're not about filling a niche - that's limiting. The word is 'breadth'. Some projects will appeal to some distributors, others will appeal to others. We're confident in the quality of our material.'